What role will major trading banks play in the delivery of the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart insulation programme announced by the Government in Budget 2009?
All of the major trading banks have agreed to waive their fees for customers who wish to top up their mortgage by adding on some of the cost of the insulation and clean heating they install in their homes. Additionally, I have been advised that TSB Bank Ltd has agreed to lower by 0.25 percent the interest charged on any money borrowed for installation and clean heating. We welcome the support of the banking industry in delivering this important initiative. It will create warmer, drier, and healthier homes for many thousands of New Zealanders.
What has been the response from the public to the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme?
The programme is proving to be very popular with the public. It is early days. The programme does not start formally until 1 July, but I am advised that there have been over 100,000 unique visitors to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority site since the Budget announcement. That shows a great intensity of public interest. We are confident that when the 0800 numbers from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and EnergyWise transfer to the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme from 1 July, the number of visitors will increase even further. More important, though, New Zealanders will be getting warmer, drier, healthier homes because this Government has committed to the programme in conjunction with the Green Party.
Has the Minister seen any incorrect reports about the scheme; if so, what do those reports state?
Yes, I have seen incorrect reports about the scheme. It will come as no surprise to the member to learn that they came from the Labour energy spokesman, Charles Chauvel. He has put it about that low-income households will be worse off under the scheme than under the small and miserable scheme the then Labour Government was running prior to the election. The reality is quite the opposite. Under the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme, people with community services cards will get 60 percent of their insulation paid for, and in most cases the balance will be covered by participating funders who are partners in the scheme. Crucially, the Government will also give that sector of the community $1,200 for a clean heating device. The Labour scheme did not have that component in it. Mind you, there was no Labour scheme, because it did not commit any money to it.
Can the Minister confirm that the major bank fee waiver will be worth around $200 to the average household and that, in return, each such household will have to add around 10 times that amount to its existing home loan in order to finance a retrofit?
I cannot confirm the value of the fee waiver, but I can assure the member that tens of thousands of households will pick up on the scheme and will be delighted that the bank will allow them that extra lending at no additional fee. I cannot see why the member is so opposed to this programme. It may upset Labour members that we have got the programme off the ground when they could not, but essentially they should be supporting New Zealanders getting access to warmer, drier homes as a result of participating in this programme.